French Open 2016: A postscript
A fortnight in Paris produced indelible memories and the crowning of two new (first time) champions at Stade Roland Garros. Serbian maestro, Novak Djokovic finally won the only Grandslam that had eluded him; to enter the elite club of winners of the four major tennis tournaments in the world.
Garbine Muguroza won her first Grandslam, defeating the defending champion, Serena Williams, who may now be considering her future, at age 35. A few minutes to the commencement of the Ladies final, a lady said she would like to have Serena quit after winning rather than bow out as a loser. Were her words prophetic?
In the women’s final, Serena’s usually powerful serve eluded her, as deliveries that could have been outright winners were missing the lines. That was also the cause of her loss to Angelique Kerber in Melbourne. All through her career, she used that weapon when needed. Technically, the serve is complex. The ball is hammered, not down but forward, with the wrist-snap serving to make the ball dip into that little service box across the net. The thrust comes from the knees, as with a shot-putter, cricketer or boxer. It is impossible to throw a punch when feet are off the ground. At impact, the feet are on terra firma; for the necessary rhythm as the ball is driven forward. Those with good serves do not have theatrics before delivery. As a player grows older, however, the knees are not able to give the upwards push for hammering the ball. As with many top players, when Serena’s serve is effective, the rest of the game flows.
Murray must continually ask himself; “what must I do to defeat Novak?” They have been at it since junior days, from age 11. They have played many matches. They have met in six Grand Slam finals and the Serbian won five of them. Murray took Wimbledon 2013.
In tennis, the basic strategy is consistency; to keep the ball in play because tennis points are lost not won! Murray and Djokovic are top in the area of not yielding points. When they face each other, it is always a battle of two defenders and the outcome is determined at the mental level. The mind must be focused but the body must be supple, relaxed. Humour in the heat of battle helps in relaxation. Djokovic knows how to do this. He has the heart to applaud a great shot from his opponent. Andy Murray’s odyssey is to emulate that trait of his friend from Serbia.
The future champions
The game of a lifetime
Back in Nigeria, the commemorative plaque on the entrance to the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club reads, “(Lawn) tennis (is) game of a lifetime. It is a sport for all age groups. Future champions have their stage at all Grand Slam events. There are tournaments for past stars too. The physically challenged also have their act in the grand show.
All’s well that ends well. The wonderful French contribute to the rest of world in the celebration of life. Man, do not panic! Do not take yourself too serious. Relax. Berdych is right, “it is a huge circus!” Tennis is, as all sports, entertainment business. The Italians say: La vita es belle. Nature, inclement weather, rainfall and the moist clay constitute the joie de vivre of the alluring, exciting French Open.
Would Philippe Chatrier Court and Suzanne Lenglen Arena have a roof in future? The answer rests in the essential sentence every human being must assimilate: “Je ne sais pas; I don’t know.”
Men’s Singles: Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Women’s Singles: Garbine Muguruza (Spain), Men’s Doubles: Feliciano Lopez (Spain) and Marc Lopez (Spain), Women’s Doubles: Caroline Garcia (France) and Kristina Mladenovic (France), Junior Boys Singles: Geoffrey Blancaneaux (France), Junior Girls Singles: Rebeka Masarova (Switzerland), Boys Doubles: Yshai Oliet (Israel) and Patrik Rikl (Czech Republic), Girls Doubles: Paula Arias Manjon (Spain) and Olga Danilovic (Serbia), Men’s Wheelchair Singles: Gustavo Fernandez (Argentina), Men’s Wheelchair Doubles: Shingo Kunieda (Japan) and Gordon Reid (United Kingdom), Women’s Wheelchair Singles: Marjole Buis (Netherlands), Women’s Wheelchair Doubles: Yul Kamiji (Japan) and Jordanne Whiley (United Kingdom), Men’s (35-45) Legends Doubles: Juan- Carlos Ferrero (Spain) and Carlos Moya (Spain), Men’s (over 45) Legends Doubles: Sergio Bruguera (Spain) and Goran Ivanisevic (Croatia), Women’s Legends Doubles: Lyndsey Davenport (USA) and Martina Navratilova (USA).